Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some New Years Eve Ramblings

Quick, what do you see here?

If you say "three circles and a line" then you are technically correct. You are also in a very small minority. Most people, even if they consciously try not to, will see a face. Go ahead. Try not to see a face there.

We are a pattern-recognition species, and that stood us in good stead as we were evolving. Those who saw some seemingly random lines but did not see the sabre-tooth tiger behind those lines were likely to have their lives end rather abruptly and would not pass on their genes. Those who saw some random lines and thought, "OMG that's a sabre-tooth tiger!" and ran away, got to live. Even if those random lines were not really a sabre-tooth tiger, they made a clean getaway anyway. "Better safe than sorry" is not just a glib cliché -- it was a way to live (and keep on living).

Apophenia is the experience of finding patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. More specifically, a subset of apophenia is called Pareidolia and deals with seeing or hearing things that aren't really there, such as the "face" above, or the so-called Face on Mars.

Because we have evolved to see patterns, apophenia is something that we all have to guard against, and as the old saying has it, there is a fine line between sanity and madness. Most of us take great pains to ignore that line. Probably because we see it as the first step on the stairway to crazytown.

I have a close family member who has taken that stairway. He is a diagnosed shizophrenic and he sees patterns in everything. And I mean everything, including an (to him) infinitely higher than average number of white Honda cars. It's an easy step from there for to believing that all of the white Hondas are part of a larger -- but hidden -- plan, that they are following him around and spying on him. To what end is never a question that enters the equation. It's enough that they are there, all around him, everywhere, all the time. And, because he refuses to take his meds ("I don't like the way they make me feel"), it is an untreated mental disorder and his long-term prognosis is not good. He has crossed that line from apophenia to paranoia.

The main function of propaganda, and its non-political arm, advertising, is to subtly and not-so-subtly encourage us to see the patterns where they don't exist. Nobody knows this better than Faux News. They are the hands-down experts at placing a semi-transparent grid over reality, where everything they want you to think is pre-patterned out for you. Who else could make a connection between the constitutionally-mandated legal representation of an indigent client accused of a crime and the supposed "socialist" views of someone who is now being considered a presidential candidate? (Hint: It's Hillary Clinton, who was raked over the coals for once acting as a court-appointed defense attorney in a rape case.)

And it's not just Faux News. Pretty much the entire right wing is guilty of it. How else to explain shit like the Obama-was-born-in-Kenya meme, or the Loontown Express that was Benghazi?

An admission: For a while there, many years ago, I was fascinated/obsessed with the concept of "subliminal messaging" in advertising (which is apparently a real thing), having read a couple of books by the notorious Wilson Bryan Key, and started seeing the letters S-E-X in every print ad that I saw. After a while pareidolia took over and I was able to see the letters in randomly textured things like pebble-grain leather, "popcorn" ceilings and towels. Finally I'd had enough and stopped looking for them. But amazingly enough, every so often I still "see" letters in those kinds of surfaces. They are not the infamous S-E-X these days (may be something to do with my age...), more like a random scattering of letters, but my mind can still project them. Weird.

The movie Conspiracy Theory starring Mel Gibson back before he became the living embodiment of Jerry Fletcher, his character in the film, is an example of apophenia. But in this movie, there actually were patterns but only he could see them. Maybe that's a bad example...

So I don't know. Maybe the patterns are there all the time and we are socially conditioned to NOT see them. Or not talk about them if we do see them. Or something...

Or maybe I need another drink. Or two. It is New Years Eve Day after all...

See you all in the new year and thanks for reading.

Further Reading: Programming the Nation?, Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, Confirmation Bias, Cherry Picking, Denialism.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who the Hell Is Eatoin Shrdlu?

No that is not a Gaelic dancer or Lithuanian farmer. EATOIN SHRDLU -- those are, in order of frequency, the 12 most common letters of the alphabet in written English. This is why I never lose playing the Hangman game on my Nook. Once you go through those letters, you rarely find a Hangman word where you can't fill in the missing letters.

Unsurprisingly, it has its own Wikipedia page, which gives its history, going back to the linotype printing days. It even gives the updated frequency based on modern computer studies: ETAONI RSHDLC or ETAOIN SRHLDCU (13 letters!) -- take your pick; naturally there would be two competing schools of thought on this. But neither of those sounds very "name-y", unlike the original. Those two sound more like secret CIA cryptonymic code designations for Agency operations, as in ZRRIFLE (the Castro Assassination Plot) or JMWAVE (the Miami CIA station) rather than foreign names of people.

Naturally, the Oxford Dictionary also something to say on the whole topic.

So how does it end up? Predictably, again depending on the source, CMFWYGP BVKQJXZ. (That first group actually looks Welsh to me.)

So why does anyone even study this kind of thing? Well, based on my 40-year-old-experience in academia, the less something matters in the "real world", the more likely people are to heatedly argue over it. During the Clinton years, professors actually came to blows over the definition of "is" -- as in "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is"...

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Invention of the Police

I discovered a new-to-me blog, Works in Theory, where I just read an interesting think-piece entitled Origins of the Police:

In England and the United States, the police were invented within the space of just a few decades—roughly from 1825 to 1855.
The new institution was not a response to an increase in crime, and it really didn’t lead to new methods for dealing with crime. The most common way for authorities to solve a crime, before and since the invention of police, has been for someone to tell them who did it.
Besides, crime has to do with the acts of individuals, and the ruling elites who invented the police were responding to challenges posed by collective action. To put it in a nutshell: The authorities created the police in response to large, defiant crowds. That’s
— strikes in England,
— riots in the Northern US,
— and the threat of slave insurrections in the South.
So the police are a response to crowds, not to crime.
The author, David Whitehouse, takes the long view from a Socialist perspective of the rise of capitalism and the corollary invention and evolution of the police, especially in three US cities, New York, Charleston SC and Philadelphia. He comes to the inescapable conclusion that the police are doing today what they have always done, what they were set up to do: Control by intimidation certain large segments of the population to force them into "obeying the law".

It's a long article but it is well worth the time it will take to read it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hoover's Masters of Deceit: A Surprising Do-It-Yourself Guide to Going Underground

A ratty paperback copy of J. Edgar Hoover's "magnum opus" and blatant propaganda tool, Masters of Deceit, subtitled "The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It", has been nestled in my bookcase for about fifty years now, ever since the prof of a freshman political science class assigned it as a "valuable textbook on the communist influence in the United States". It kind of surprised me that he would assign it, since, according to Hoover and those of his ilk, all college professors were, at a minimum, "pinkos" if not out-and-out Reds.

Anyway, I happened to run across it last night while I was looking for something else and chanced to pick it up and glance through it. Along with the expected "exposés" of the usual suspects, William Z. Foster, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, et al., there was a chapter on how the communists target minorities, especially "the Negroes".

It seems that if anyone went out amongst the black population in the United States and did anything to point out what the blacks themselves already knew, e.g., that they were kept down economically and kept ignorant Intellectually by such things as infringement on their right to vote, or work at decent pay, or the establishment of "separate but equal" deteriorating schools and substandard textbooks, then they were "communist agitators" who should be run out of (Ni**er)town on a rail. Apparently anyone who told "the Negroes" anything, except how satisfied they should be in their menial low-pay jobs and their rat-infested firetrap shacks and their antiquated and poorly maintained schools with their outdated and torn textbooks and how happy they ought to be with massa's boot kept firmly on their necks, was nothing more than a Soviet Agent taking orders directly from The Kremlin.

But the most interesting, if not to say illuminating, chapter was one called "How the Underground Works", in which detailed descriptions appear of how the communists go underground, how they evade surveillance, how they lose suspicious cars which may be tailing them, how they change their identities and their appearance, how they use "safe houses" etc. The book devotes nearly 20 pages to this.

It's actually a do-it-yourself guide to dropping out of sight. If you did need to "go underground" (like members of the Weather Underground in the early 70s, an act made musically famous by the Talking Heads' 1989 song, Life During Wartime), Hoover's book would be a valuable detailed textbook on how to do it.

I wonder if anyone actually used it for that. I wouldn't doubt it -- the book was in print starting in 1955 and was, allegedly, a huge best-seller. Bookstores had to be full of used copies by the time 1970 rolled around. I can picture Bill Ayres or Bernadine Dorhn picking up a copy as a lark, for a chuckle at the expense of the "enemy" and for a  window into how the enemy thinks, and then being surprised and elated by the step-by-step instructions on how to go underground, avoid suspicion, shake off your surveillance and disappear.

I hope it happened. That would be the ultimate strike of bitter irony against J. Edgar Hoover.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dick of the Year

Every year the News Corpse website of media criticism (which I read regularly) chooses whom it wishes to bestow upon the coveted title of "Dick of the Year".

The waiting is over. The hands-down winner of this year's award -- no surprises here --  is the appropriately-named Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney. He proudly joins the Dick Hall of Fame (there may be an actual, genuine "Dick Hall of Fame", but a Google search for that phrase brings up some very odd results).

Speaking of Dicks, whatever happened to the Dickipedia? It was a Wiki dedicated to Dicks everywhere, and it was an equal-opportunity insulter. People like Tucker Carlson and Michele Bachmann shared the designation with people like Michael Moore and Barack Obama.

So what happened to it? Well, according to this guy:

It seems like the corporate overlords at AOL didn't take kindly to the Huffington Post offshoot. What a bunch of dicks. But if you want to take a look at the Way Back Machine... Dickipedia as it was.
And here is that link to the Internet Archives Wayback Machine's capture of The Dickipedia.


Idris Elba a Black James Bond? Great! -- Not So Fast, Says Rushbo

A little background: Idris Elba is one of my all-time favorite actors. Who can forget him as Russell "Stringer" Bell, the crimelord/aspiring businessman in that great HBO series, The Wire? Or as the angst-ridden police Detective John Luther in the terrific BBC series, Luther? He's been suggested as a possible future movie version of James Bond

With his versatility and range, along with being able to project a sense of smoldering danger, he would be great at playing that role. James Bond may have been originally conceived as a blue-eyed half-Scots half-Swiss white guy by his "daddy" Ian Fleming back in 1953 (over 60 years ago!), but there is nothing in his character or behavior or job description that would preclude the role being taken by a black man. I'm not aware of anyone having a fit over Bond's CIA pal, Felix Leiter, turning black in 2006 for Casino Royale.

But wait! I forgot to include the wheezy rants of America's foremost neo-19th-Century wingnut, that drug-addled ass-pimpled flailing gas-bag draft dodger, Rush Limbaugh:

"James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is," Limbaugh said.
"But now [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that's not who James Bond is."
And as if that wasn't bad enough…Limbaugh finished up his rant with an alarmingly self-aware thought.
"I know it's racist to probably point this out."
Gee, ya think?

As the E! Online story pointed out, that statement is, in fact, "alarmingly self-aware" of him. Could Rush Limbaugh finally get so self-aware that he sees that he's become totally irrelevant?

No, I'm not counting on it either.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Killer on the Road, Part II -- Charles Starkweather

After my first post on this topic the other day, I did a little more thinking about the whole "killer on the road" phenomenon. Billy Cook was certainly not the first embodiment of the Killer on the Road, and he certainly wasn't the last, but he sank into obscurity faster than the musical career of The Hollywood Argyles.

So why did his crime spree fall into oblivion while that of Charles Starkweather, almost exactly seven years later and similar in a lot of ways, become world famous and develop such a lasting endurance that he would be the topic of eight movies over the next 30 years -- including the Martin Sheen-Cissy Spacek vehicle Badlands from 1974 and the "eighth most controversial film of all time", Oliver Stone's neo-noir Natural Born Killers from 1991, not to mention the 1982 moody Bruce Springsteen hit, "Nebraska"?

Aside from Starkweather's first killing, on Nov 30, 1957 (which no one even connected with Starkweather until he confessed after his arrest), his killing spree lasted only eight days, from January 21 to January 29, 1958. His body count was higher, but not all that much higher -- only eleven people as compared to Cook's five. That's kind of paltry when it's compared to later killers such as Ted Bundy (at least 30 victims)  or the now forgotten "I-5 Killer", Roger Kibbe (also known as "Roger Who?"), whose suspected number of victims also runs into the 30s.

So how did Charles Starkweather pull off that notoriety when Billy Cook couldn't? What happened during that seven year interim to make Starkweather's story develop the"legs" to be such a long-lasting part of our culture, our psyche?

Part of it goes to the breathlessly-reported sordid detail that Starkweather had his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, with him the whole time, after first murdering her entire family (shades of Mickey and Mallory Knox!), and the fact that they had terrorized and then murdered a wealthy local industrialist along with his wife and their maid, in their own home!. To the media, a wealthy person's violent death, especially in a home invasion, is worth far more than that of the "Poor White Trash" represented by Caril Ann's family, and consequently that crime gets way more air play and more column inches in the reporting. But that's only part of the story.

What happened in just seven short years comes down to two things: The advent of universal access to television by "the masses", and rise of the Juvenile Delinquent.

In 1951, when Billy Cook made his run, television was something that only the well-to-do had. TVs were expensive, there were relatively few broadcasters, and the general feeling in the entertainment world was that after the novelty wore off, no one would really watch television -- in the words of movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, people would soon get tired of staring at a plywood box in their living rooms. By 1957, however, everyone except a few Luddite curmudgeons and cousin-marryin' moonshinin' backwoods-livin' peckerheads had a television set, and it was rapidly becoming THE source for the news of the world. Including news of a violence-prone Juvenile Delinquent serial killer roaming the highways in search of victims.

Anyone who lived through the 50s remembers the archetypal Juvenile Delinquent: Black leather jacket, Levi's, engineer boots, ducktail haircut, long sideburns, bad attitude, lack of respect for authority, cigarette dangling from snarly lips, etc. No, not the emasculated sitcom version epitomized in the pseudo-cool of Henry Winkler's "The Fonz" on the Happy Days TV series. The real JD was dangerous, unpredictable, bristling with switchblade knives and and bubbling over with barely-contained violence. According to the media's stereotypical portrayal of him, anyway.

It was also the media's frantic obsession with "Troubled Youth" (and coincidentally the market share it represented). Starting in the early 1950s, analyzing and explaining the Troubled Youth of the nation became a kind of cottage industry, and television coverage of youth crimes only served to exacerbate that trend.

First comic books were blamed -- they were solely responsible for the increase in teenage delinquency, an accusation that came from the questionable "science" of one Dr. Fredric Wertham and his crusade to have all comic books banned.

Then it was movies. Then it was television itself. Every print media outlet, from The New York Times to Life Magazine to Reader's Digest was wringing its collective editorial hands over the sudden juvenile "crime wave" that had swept up American Youth in its ugly paws. Even the newspaper comics' Dick Tracy got into the act in 1956, in a story arc concerning a punk named "Joe Period" who fit the classic mold -- ducktail haircut, black leather jacket, etc. -- which immediately morphed into a story concerning the murderously violent teenage genius offspring of one of Tracy's most classic villains, 1944's Flattop, one Flattop Jr. by name.

The 1955 release of Nicholas Ray's homage to rebellious youth, Rebel Without a Cause, starring the very symbol of teenage angst, James Dean (despite the fact that he was 24), hit the youth culture like a tidal wave combined with an earthquake  combined with a meteor strike. Charles Starkweather even started modeling himself after the rebellious Dean.

The media were, naturally, quick to pick up on this trend and a ton of Teen Rebellion movies were produced, from the middle-of-the-road Blackboard Jungle to quickie crime-car-culture exploitation films like Hotrod Gang and its cult-classic sequel, The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, all of them cashing in on the perceived personal danger inherent in just being around a teenager in 1950s America.

So in 1958 it all came together, and a nation was glued to the little screen for over a week in late January, following the "exploits" of America's new favorite Juvenile Delinquent/spree killer, Charles Starkweather.

Sorry, Billy Cook. Timing is everything.

Oh, and that sudden increase in crime by "Juvenile Delinquents" in the 1950s? It never happened.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Song

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Feel-Good Christmas Story

Here's your feel-good story for Christmas: Prankster Gives Homeless Man $100, Secretly Follows Him And Learns He Buys Food For Others.

There. Go enjoy your holiday. I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"A White and Delightsome People"

It used to be that the Mormons believed and taught that all Native Americans were descended from a group of emigrants from the Middle East to the West Coast of the Americas about 600 BCE(!) who were eventually called "Lamanites", followers of a guy named Laman in the big civil war that happened circa 400 AD, wherein all of the Lamanites slaughtered to the last man their rival tribe, the Nephites. This was a Very Big Deal, with mounted cavalry, chariots pulled by horses, steel swords, the whole works. Never mind the total absence of historical/sociological/biological/archeological evidence of all this, seeing as how, for example, the remains of horses, chariots, steel swords, etc., have not been found anywhere in the Pre-Columbian Western Hemisphere and there is absolutely zero Middle Eastern DNA in the genetics of the "Indians".

However, long before this big battle, as punishment for their apparently innate rebelliousness, God cursed those Lamanites with a "skin of blackness" so that they would "not be enticing" to the Nephites. Who remained "white", of course.

Despite that curse, the Lamanites embarked on some serious ass-kicking, stomped the Nephites literally out of existence, and wasted no time in populating the North and South American continents with up to 50 million people or more by the time Columbus showed up late to the party. And that population explosion all happened in just a little over 1000 years. I'll leave it to you to do the math on that, but me, I don't think it really adds up.

The Mormon Church had for years an "Indian Placement Program", wherein it identified the best and the brightest among the children of the various tribes that inhabited Mormon Country and yanked them off the rez to be raised the homes of middle-class white Mormon foster parents, all in the interest of the betterment of the race by erasing their Native culture and grinding "civilization" into them. Not to mention the salvation of their very souls by infecting them at an early age with the basic tenets of Mormonism.

This all started in 1947, and, coincidentally I'm sure, the Navajo Nation, primary recipient of this cultural hijacking and ideological brainwashing, had become suddenly wealthy in strategic minerals, specifically uranium, which was needed to fuel the nuclear armaments industry. Many of the Indian Placement Program alumni went on to positions of power and authority in theor tribes and have become individually quite successful economically. It was initially limited just to the Navajo Nation but later it expanded out to include the Hopi and other "strategically-important" tribes. Hardscrabble poverty-ridden tribes like the Paiute had to "suck hind tit" -- they apparently had no place in "God's Plan" for the betterment of the Savages.

Sadly, I have to report that none of these "Lamanite Brethren" have turned into a "white and delightsome people" yet, despite the promise of God that if they kept the commandments, served the faith, exalted Joseph Smith, stayed away from the booze, etc., then He would lift that horrible curse and turn them into that white and delightsome people. Now of course, the newer versions of the Book of Mormon (the so-called-by-Mormons "the world's most perfect book" -- which has undergone several thousand editorial revisions over the 170+ years it's been in print...) calls it a "pure and delightsome people".

Jeez, though. It's not like the Mormons didn't try really really hard, and wish-oh-wish with all their might.

Here's no less an authority than Mormon "Apostle" and later Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the Church, (aka the "head honcho") Spencer W. Kimball, speaking at a Mormon General Conference in 1960:

I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today... The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter we represent, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather... These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.
This was just 13 years after the program had started. Jeez, you'd think that the whole Navajo Nation would have achieved that elusive "white and delightsome" status by now.

But now that I think of it, isn't one of the symptoms of radiation poisoning through lengthy exposure to uranium a bleaching out of the skin to a deathly pallor?

Or maybe that's just death itself. It's called a "deathly pallor" for a reason, I guess...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Killer on the Road

I was listening to an old recording of Baby Snooks last night along with some other Christmas shows from the Golden Age of Radio, and recalled that I remember the night Fanny Brice died.

That was May of 1951. And that started a whole chain of free-association childhood memories, until I stumbled on a clear and vivid memory of a killer terrorizing residents along US Highway 66 from Chicago to California at about that same time. Since I lived on a farm that was exactly one mile from Route 66, this I seem to remember was a constant topic of fear and worry to the adults in my life for months. I remember my parents going on "full alert" whenever a strange car came down the road.

I also remember how relieved everyone was when the "Route 66 Killer" finally got the gas at San Quentin. The Tulsa World newspaper splayed it across the top of the front page in big WWIII headlines. So I got curious as to who that really was and what it was all about.

Childhood memories are funny things. I had built it up in my mind that the guy had been on a months-long killing spree up and down the highway and had murdered literally dozens of victims during that time. Fortunately I also remembered that the name of the killer was "Cook", so I was easily able to find that he was one Billy Cook from Joplin, Missouri.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Billy Cook was nothing more than a punk, his killing spree lasted only 22 days, around New Years 1951, and his body count was only five people. And places such as Wichita Falls and Lubbock, Texas, and Blythe, California, were the scenes of his killings. None of those places are even near Route 66. (To be fair, he apparently was picked up as a hitchhiker on Route 66 near Tulsa by the Mosser family from Illinois and they drove him to Wichita Falls before he killed them there.)

Granted I was only five years old at the time, but even so I think our memories can't really be relied on to reflect the truth of any given situation in our past. Now I'm starting to rethink any number of things that I was "sure" had happened the way I remember them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ben Carson, Now What Was That Again?

Likely 2016 presidential candidate and official "House Negro" for the right wing, Doctor Ben Carson, came up with one hell of a "Scooby Doo" moment this week.

Speaking on a radio station that is the spoken propaganda arm of the Moonie-owned Washington Times "news"paper, Carson said "the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because it violates the U.S. Constitution’s provision that the government must 'promote the general welfare' of the nation."

Cue Scooby Doo: "Dyuh-hunh!?"

Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that getting affordable health care to a large percentage of the population (aka "Obamacare") does, indeed, "promote the general welfare". Of course, what would do a much better job of that would be a single-payer Medicare-for-all system, but what are the chances that the good doctor would go for that?

After all, Carson is the one that said that the ACA was "worse than slavery". Later of course he tried to backpedal that comment, but he still said it, and when you run for president, every single utterance you made ever will come back to haunt you. He's probably one of those "slavery was good for black people" guys. Talk about turning your back on your roots, your history, and even your common sense.

This is the guy that the Republicans think can attract black voters away from the Democratic Party? Yeah, good luck with that.

Coming Out of the Closet as a Freethinker

Thanks to a blog I follow routinely, Defaithed, I just stumbled on a new blog, Adams' Naked Truth. There are only two posts total, but boy howdy!

The first is a long letter written by Adam Vigansky to friends and family explaining why and how he was able to cast aside a lifetime of dedication to Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost Spirit and Christian Fundamentalism.

It's called "An Open Letter to my Christian Friends" and it pulls no punches.


In Genesis 9, Noah gets drunk and passed out naked and God said nothing about it. But his son Ham tells his brothers about it and as a result Noah curses all Ham’s descendants with being slaves. Talk about over doing it! “Righteous” Lot (2 Pet. 2:7) offers his daughters to the men of the town to be raped, and then later they each commit incest with their drunken father. Yet there was not a word from God about these sins, and yet Lot’s wife looks over her shoulder while fleeing Sodom’s destruction and is punished by God and turned into a pillar of salt (Gen.19). Which is worse – lying, drunkenness, offering your daughters to be gang raped by strangers, incest, or looking over your shoulder? It is human curiosity to look when something unusual is happening – such as an accident on the side of the road. Lot’s wife is punished with death by salt (?) simply for being inquisitive. Again, the woman in the story gets the worst of it.
Okay, that's the God of the Old Testament, back when he was being kind of dick. But surely the God of the New Testament is not like that. He's all light and ponies and kittens and love your neighbor stuff, right?
The God of Revelation has the worst traits of Hitler, Kim ll Sung, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin and Osama Bin Laden all rolled into one. Hitler’s ovens burned the dead bodies and were finite, but God’s fiery ovens burn His living victims for eternity. According to Christian beliefs, both Hitler and his ‘unsaved’ Jewish victims will be roasting together in the endless torments of Hell! Think about it. Is that a good God? Is this justice? No.
There's a lot more to it, and even though it is rather lengthy, it's worth reading. The description of his journey from Fundamentalist Believer to Freethinker is fascinating. Also worth reading are the comments, wherein a number of True Believers try to take him to task and bring him back to Jesus. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marco Rubio the Self-Styled "Cuba Expert"

The boy's making quite a name for himself by vehemently opposing the normalization of relations with Cuba. Hmmm... Do I smell some presidential aspirations in the air?

Okay, he does have a right to his opinion, but did you notice that damn near every media story identifies him as having parents who fled Castro's Cuba. He even has not been above claiming that himself on occasion.

It makes for a compelling personal narrative, the kind American politics just loves. But it's time for some truth: Marco Rubio's  parents came to the US in 1956. Castro came to power in 1959. So shut the fuck up, media. (Okay, to be fair, if the media talking heads are being generous -- and extra-honest -- that day, they will say the parents fled "pre-Castro Cuba", as if that even means anything -- my German forebears fled pre-Hitler Germany ... in 1749.)

Nevertheless, his opinions on the current Cuban government have no more cachet than anyone else's who came to the US before Castro.

Like oh, I dunno, Ricky Ricardo, for example.

I think it's high time we normalized relations with Cuba. Finally I'll be able to smoke some unsmuggled Cuban cigars. My friends going on vacation to the West Indies or Mexico have been complaining lately about my "suggestions" that they might like to bring me back a small present or two.

The Return of "The Return of 'Hanoi Jane'"

I probably shouldn't look at those stats as much as I do, but one thing interesting popped out at me. The one post, aside from the Sarah Palin fake photo, that seems to get consistent page views on a regular basis is from way back in November 2010, The Return of "Hanoi Jane". In just the last month, this tops the list of hits on this blog, being out in front of the next most popular for the month, Rick Santorum, Communism, and the Separation of Church and State by almost double.

So I guess the title of today's entry is kind of misnomer. There hasn't been a return -- she's been there all the time, marching along with an impressive and consistent number of page views, week in and week out. Why is that?

Is it because among a certain segment of the population, "Jane Fonda" is synonymous with "traitor"? That is true enough, but that doesn't explain the continual popularity of that particular page on this blog, despite the fact that it is now over four years old and there have been only eight comments on it, the latest being from last May.

I did a Google Search for Hanoi Jane Fonda traitor and "The Return of 'Hanoi Jane'" did not come up in the top 100 hits. A lot of sites found in that search do show a visceral rabidly unreasoning hatred of Jane Fonda, though, beyond all rational thought and despite the sites that try to clear the air and examine how many of those "traitor" stories are true. (Depending on your defintion of "treason", pretty much none of them -- see this Snopes account. for example, or this open letter from NAM-POW president and former "guest" of the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Mike McGrath.)

It really remains a mystery to me.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Badass Squirrel

I've been kept near poverty by my inordinate number of purchases of bags of peanuts to feed the local fauna in my backyard. As a result, a murder of crows numbering in the high twenties has taken up residence in the neighborhood trees, Stellar's jays and scrub jays await my daily dispensing of legume largess, and there's even a rat who's taken up residence under the deck. Needless to say, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed is less than thrilled with the latest guest. But he's not one of those big ugly cartoon rats -- he's more like an oversized mouse. Too cute to kill.

But the major recipients of my daily dropping of nuts are the squirrels. There are at least two of them -- since they all look alike, there could be more and they are sending out tag-teams at lunch time. And they are fairly small urban squirrels, not the big honkers you see out in the woods.

And they don't take any shit off of anybody. They will muscle their way into the middle of a cluster of crows, push them out of the way, and fill their cheeks with peanuts. The crows, who are naturally wary anyway, scuttle aside and let the squirrels have their way, even though most of them are bigger than the squirrels and they have them outnumbered. The other birds, being smaller, fly the other way when they even see a squirrel.

But the most impressive feat happened today, when I dropped some peanuts on the deck and retreated behind the sliding glass door. The rat made his way out of his crack and started nosing around the peanuts, and seemingly out of nowhere a squirrel shot across the deck, headed for the rat with mayhem on his mind. The rat jumped straight up in the air, hit the ground running and disappeared back under the deck.

Then the squirrel sort of strutted around with a "that's right, I'm bad" attitude, grabbed some peanuts and headed for the back yard. The cats, in the meantime, were going nuts themselves, yowling and throwing themselves at the glass. Because they wanted to "play" with the squirrel. Yeah, like that's gonna happen. That squirrel would show them that there really is more than one way to skin a cat. Better that they stay safely ensconced behind safety glass and enjoy their squirrel-slaughter cat-fantasies than go out and get torn a new one by a badass squirrel.

Club 33 and the Entitled Whiners

In what has to be one of the world's worst-kept secrets, there is actually a place in Disneyland where you can buy and consume alcohol.

I'll wait for the shock and awe to subside...

It's called Club 33, and it's not much of a secret if people have known about it for years. It's actually been there since the beginning, right in the New Orleans Square section of the park, accessible by a nondescript door with only the street number "33" on it. Those "in the know" can push an intercom switch, identify themselves, and walk right in.

The catch is that "identify yourself" part. You have to be a member to actually use the facility, and memberships are not cheap. The initiation fee for corporate members is $40,000, for individual members $27,000, and on top of that are the annual dues of $11,000. Why anyone would want to pay this is almost unfathomable. I can think of a lot better things to spend $27K, plus an annual hit of $11k, on than something like this.

Obviously these are people with more dollars than sense.

When I first learned of this secret club a number of years back, I made it a point to seek out the magic door in the Magic Kingdom. Sure enough, there it was, and while we loitering around outside a couple came up, pushed the button, said, "McMoneybags, party of two," and the door clicked. I wanted to follow them right in, but She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed held me back.

"We'll get in trouble," was her excuse.

Yeah, like that's scary. What are they going to do, kick us out of Disneyland? I'd wear that as a badge of honor. Put us in the Disneyland Jail (apparently that's a real thing) with Judge Doom and the Seven Dwarfs as prison guards? Torture by Pirate in the ground-floor-of-that-very-building's Pirates of the Caribbean "attraction" (they are not "rides", they are "attractions")?

Anyway, the moment passed, the door clicked shut again and I was left to wonder. But, it appears, that even if you do manage to weasel your way inside, all you'll see is a reception lobby. All of the action takes place on the second floor.

So I read with not a small amount of mirth a story in the LA Times, Disney alters perks for Club 33 members that the members of this exclusive club are being a bunch of little whiny-ass bitches over some changes in their membership perks.

Talk about an overblown sense of entitlement. Jesus, people, go out and feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and help the sick. Stop whining about how Disneyland is "unfair" to you.

I told you up front that I have too much time on my hands. This proves it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rattlesnake Logic and the Final Solution to the Islamic Question

I am on some weird-ass mailing lists, but I won't get off of them because it gives me an entertaining insight into what the lunatic fringe is up to. I also get a chuckle out of thinking that their tin-foil-hat shit is going out only to those who agree with them.

I don't know if that is why I got this "Rattlesnake Logic" email, or if it was because someone thought they could "convert" me to their way of thinking with this piece of airtight carefully-thought-out and totally logical reasoning as to why we need to kill all the Muslims.


Here in west Texas, I have rattlesnakes on my place, living among us. I have killed a rattlesnake on the front porch. I have killed a rattlesnake on the back porch. I have killed rattlesnakes in the barn, in the shop and on the driveway. In fact, I kill every rattlesnake I encounter.
I kill rattlesnakes because I know a rattlesnake will bite me and inject me with poison. I don't stop to wonder WHY a rattlesnake will bite me; I know it WILL bite me because it's a rattlesnake and that's what rattlesnakes do. I don't try to reason with a rattlesnake or have a "meaningful dialogue" with it…I just kill it. I don't try to get to know the rattlesnake better so I can find a way to live with the rattlesnakes and convince them not to bite me. I just kill them. I don't quiz a rattlesnake to see if I can find out where the other snakes are, because (a) it won't tell me and (b) I already know they live on my place. So, I just kill the rattlesnake and move on to the next one.
I don't look for ways I might be able to change the rattlesnake to a non-poisonous rat snake...I just kill it. Oh, and on occasion, I accidentally kill a rat snake because I thought it was a rattlesnake at the time. Also, I know for every rattlesnake I kill, two more are lurking out there in the brush. In my lifetime I will never be able to rid my place of rattlesnakes.
Do I fear them? Not really. Do I respect what they can do to me and my family? Yes!! And because of that respect, I give them the fair justice they deserve...I kill them. As a country, we should start giving more thought to the fact that these jihadists' are telling the world their goal is to kill Americans and destroy our way of life. They have just posted two graphic videos on the internet showing them beheading Americans. They are serious. They are exactly like rattlesnakes. It is high time for us to start acting accordingly!
I love this country. It's the damn government I'm afraid of!
There's more to it, including a rant about the number of Muslims in Obama's cabinet (real answer: Like every president, even W and St. Ronald, a few advisers, no cabinet members) and we should BE AFRAID! BE AFRAID! LOOK OUT! THERE'S ONE BEHIND YOU!

If you do a Google search on "rattlesnake logic Islam" you will turn up nearly 50,000 hits. A random sampling shows the vast majority of those sites seem to be of the "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" school of dealing with the "Islamic Question".

So it got me to wondering about the analogy itself. Are rattlesnakes to be feared as much as Tex claims (even though he says he doesn't fear them, come on, who really believes that)?

I found a scientific article entitled Control of Rattlesnakes, which, as the title indicates, is not a brief from the pro-rattlesnake lobby. In it wildlife biologist Walter E. Howard says that there are only about 1,000 rattlesnake bites each year nationwide and of these only about five result in death. In fact, you are actually ten times more likely to die of an insect sting than you are of a snakebite. Because, you know, science...

Besides that, I hope he's prepared to adopt a herd of cats or else be overrun by rats and mice if his genocidal plan continues, since rodents are the primary diet of the rattlesnake. Nothing exists in a vacuum.

I grew up in snake country, and the farm I lived on was literally crawling with poisonous snakes -- a pond full of cottonmouth water moccasins, a corral full of copperheads, and five varieties of rattlesnake slithering around the whole 40 acres. But, as I was told as a small child and which still holds true today, "They are even more afraid of you than you are of them."

So much for your theory, Tex. In fact, you know what? I don't think there really is a "Tex" at all. Read that story over again. These are not the words of a West Texas rancher. That rancher would know the facts about snakes and would not set out on a wholesale slaughter mission to erase every one of them. Nobody acts like that and nobody talks like that. Instead these are the flightful fantasies of a look-at-me-I'm-macho sidewalk-range-riding Clint-Eastwood-watching city-dwelling movie-cowboy wannabe, whose only experience with snakes was obtained watching Samuel L. Jackson and his motherfucking-snakes-on-a-motherfucking plane movie. If I am wrong, somebody let me know and I will officially eat my size 7 3/8 hat (yes, I do have a big head...). With a side of crow to go along with it.

Still, snakes do creep me out a lot even now, even the strictly non-poisonous garden variety we have around here. I am not alone in this. Most people have an active revulsion to snakes, and fully one-third of all humans have a full-blown case of Ophidiophobia. That's is why this analogy, bogus as it is, carries such a visceral appeal.

Really, this whole thing is verging on a "Final Solution" answer to the Islamic Question. Since there are nearly two million Muslims in the US alone, that's a lot of rattlesnakes to dispose of. Just the landfill charges alone will be horrendous. And that's not to mention the 1.6 billion Muslims world wide. Oh, but it's different, they say. We are going to kill only the jihadist rattlesnakes. Okay, that cuts it down to a workable number of ... how many was that again?

Funny thing, no one has an answer to that question. The jihadists don't wear uniforms or even Old School Ties, so apparently the answer is "all of the Muslims". And, as Tex says, it's no big deal. Sometimes he will kill a non-poisonous rat snake "by mistake". Yeah, it's way safer to take the "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" approach than it is to LOOK OUT! THERE'S ONE BEHIND YOU!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More on the United States as a "Christian Nation"

Here is the Preamble to the US Constitution as it has read since the beginning, way back in 1787:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Here's what it could have been:
(1) We, the people of the United States recognizing the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior and Lord of all, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
That was one version. Here is another:
(2) We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government, and in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the inalienable rights and the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ourselves, our posterity, and all the people, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
And yet another:
(3) We the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among the nations, and His revealed will as our supreme authority, in order to constitute a Christian government, to form a more perfect union, ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. (ellipses as given in source).
What is going on here, and why don't we have any of those versions in the Constitution?

That's because since the very beginning, the majority of the so-called Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 wanted it to be clear that there would be a true separation of church and state in the new nation. A vocal but ultimately defeated minority wanted, from the start, to acknowledge the divinity of Christ and the ultimate authority of God over the affairs of state. They were, of course, unsuccessful.

At the time the Constitution was adopted, it was clear to all concerned (even if they accepted it with grave reservations) that this was, in the words of the Treaty of Tripoli just ten years later, in 1797, a government that "is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".

Fast forward to the Civil War (or, as it's known some places as "The War Between the States" and in the South as "The War of Yankee Aggression"). In 1863 a group of Protestant clergymen from the Northern States saw the Civil War as God's punishment on the nation for turning its back on Him and proposed the wording noted above in (1) as a constitutional amendment.

The next year they founded the Christian Amendment Movement, which quickly morphed into the more neutral-sounding National Reform Movement, and sent a memorial to congress formally proposing the wording in (2) above as an amendment to replace the Preamble to the Constitution. Also in the mix about the same time was the wording of the proposal shown in (3) above.

None of them ever went anywhere, despite getting some support from several senators. Other attempts were made in 1874, 1896 and 1910. In the anti-communist hysteria of the 1940s and 50s, even more proposals were made, including this one in the conventional form of a Constitutional Amendment (i.e., a regularly-numbered one added on the end instead of one changing the actual words of the Preamble):
Section 1: This nation devoutly recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.
Section 2: This amendment shall not be interpreted so as to result in the establishment of any particular ecclesiastical organization, or in the abridgment of the rights of religious freedom, or freedom of speech and press, or of peaceful assemblage.
Section 3: Congress shall have power, in such cases as it may deem proper, to provide a suitable oath or affirmation for citizens whose religious scruples prevent them from giving unqualified allegiance to the Constitution as herein amended.

It of course went nowhere as well. But the Christian Nation folks did get the consolation prize, which was adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance and putting "In God We Trust" on our money.

So the obvious question kind of asks itself: If this is, and was from the beginning, a "Christian Nation", then why did so many people take such great pains over the years to codify it into the constitution? According to such latter-day experts as revisionist "historian" David Barton, professional rightwing wackjob evangelist and founder of the Orwellian-named WallBuilders (dedicated to tearing down the wall of separation between church and state), this is and always was a Christian Nation, the separation of church and state is a myth, and if wasn't for the leftwing-atheist-communist bloc (aka the nine men against America) in the Supreme Court striking down prayer in the schools, kicking God out the back door while inviting Satan in the front, it would be fully acknowledged as such.

So why all of the scrambling, all of the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, all of the desperate attempts to muscle it into the Constitution? As I've often said, it is telling that the framers of the Constitution, although they were certainly free to do so, made absolutely no mention of God or Jesus Christ in the founding document of the United States. There's your "Original intent" right there, Justice Scalia.

And before you even start, shut the fuck up about the date "In the Year of Our Lord" in the signature block. That was the usual and customary form of dating documents, and its presence there means nothing. Nothing. Got that? Nothing. Well, except for the actual date, of course.

Further reading: Blaine Amendment, the Blaine Game and the Christian Right.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

I can't believe what passes for "news" any more. Especially after watching the demise last night of one of my favorite television series of all time, The Newsroom.

Now there's this big controversy about whether the Pope believes that dogs go to heaven. One Pope did, apparently, but the current wearer of the Pointy Hat remains silent on the subject, even though somebody may have interpreted something that he may have said to mean that maybe animals do go to heaven.

Jesus, with all the problems in this world, this is what people think "news" is? Somebody in a funny hat may have said something that somebody else may have...blah blah blah.

BTW, wasn't there a movie that answered this question in its very title?

Well, to mildly misquote the great American humorist (and fellow Oklahoma boy) Will Rogers, if there are no dogs in heaven then I don't want to go there -- I want to go where the dogs went.

I mean really. What kind of god allows people to bond with animals that they love, rips them away to an early death and a lonely grave, and then won't allow them to join up with us again in the "paradise" of the afterlife? These are not the actions of a kind and loving and benevolent god. These are the actions of a cruel and sadistic tyrant.

Not that there's much chance that I or anyone else will ever get to learn "the truth" about it. For an insight into my religious proclivities, see other posts on this blog too numerous to mention, typically this rant on the Post-Rapture Emails.

Can 252 Frenchmen All Be Wrong?

Turns out that it really is a World Wide Web. I've been watching my stats pretty closely after my cynical attempt to attract more readership the other day.

The answer to your unspoken question: No, it did not work. I had fewer hits on that page than any other in the last week. Go figure...

Anyway, I did discover something interesting. I have a ton of readers in France!

Here are the top nine total hits by reader location for the week of Dec 7 to Dec 14, 2014:

United States602
France 252

The others that surprised me were the number of readers from the Ukraine, China  and, of all places, Latvia. I was also kind of taken aback by the fact that Canada, with only 15, is in last place!

However, it is gratifying that the statistic on total page views has been steadily climbing since I came out of "retirement"; I've had 4,779 views in the last month!

As I've often said, I have literally dozens of readers that I can marshal on any given issue. Advertisers and political operatives take note.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Elizabeth Warren's "Indian Problem"

When she was running for the US Senate a couple of years back, the question of Elizabeth Warren's alleged Native American heritage came up. Naturally all the noxioux nattering came from the wingnuttery.

Warren had said that she was 1/32 Cherokee-Delaware. Sounds pretty easy to check, right? Well not so fast there, Lone Ranger. It turns out that there really isn't much in the way of reliable verification of that can be had.

My whole childhood I was also told that I was 1/32 Native American, also Cherokee to be specific. That means that one of my great-great grandparents had to have been full-blood Cherokee. All I had to do was trace my line back to that person and voilá, I would be an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. After all, my roots are in Oklahoma, and my ancestors got there in the mid-19th Century, when it was still officially known as "Indian Territory". It's got to be there, I figured.

With much digging around in places like I was able to track down all 8 of my great-great-grandparents. While none of them had "Indian" names, that was not an uncommon occurrence --  lot of Cherokees had, even before the infamous Trail of Tears, long taken on "white" names in an effort to appear as though they were assimilating. One of them just had to be The Indian. But which one? And proving it was going to be another story.

The problem turned out that it was pretty cut and dried that your Cherokee ancestor had to have been listed on the Dawes Rolls or you were flat out of luck. As it happened on the frontier when white women were few and far between, white men would take Native American wives. But those guys were usually looked on with scorn by other whites, derided as "Squaw Man" and "Teepee Creepers", and consequently the children's Indian heritage was something to be hidden away, not celebrated. If you were a Native American woman living off the reservation with your white husband, you likely did not get counted in the Dawes Rolls. Plus a number of Indians just refused to be listed because they did not agree with the allotment system for distributing Indian land to the members of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes".

My cousin, who can also trace his own Cherokee heritage back through his mother's side of the family, was fortunate enough to have an ancestor with the foresight to allow himself to be registered, so he was able to enroll in the Cherokee Tribe.

So what about a DNA test? You'd think that a DNA test would be conclusive. Some dickhead Boston Globe columnist actually issued a "challenge" for her to take the DNA test and prove once and for all that she is really an Indian. But there's a problem with that as well.

If there is anything that could come back to haunt Elizabeth Warren's candidacy, it is this. It is not at all clear if she really did benefit from claiming her status as Native American for Affirmative Action advantages but she'll still be accused of it.

Oh, and one more thing. A lot was made -- also by the wingnuttery, naturally -- of the fact that she doesn't "look" Indian. If that's a legitimate criticism, then what are we supposed to make of this guy:

That's the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker.

Or this guy:

That's Hollywood actor Iron Eyes Cody, or to use his birth name, Espera Oscar de Corti. This has been the iconic image of Native Americans ever since that famous 1970s "Crying Indian" Keep America Beautiful anti-littering commercial. He was 100% Italian.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ready for Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren, the Wall Street Pitbull and US Senator  from Massachusetts (it's Teddy Kennedy's old seat!), has said the doesn't want to run for the Presidency. We think that is a mistake.

Let her know by signing the petition at Ready for Warren and let her know that we've got her back.

Read more about this incredible and progressive woman and then join the clamor of the progressive branch of the Democratic Party by asking to change her mind and become a candidate.

She might just be our Last Great Hope to wrest the victory from Rick Santorum Chris Christie, Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush and keep it way from the vast Rightwing Conspiracy that they represent.

Don't let's have another four years of Republican rule. We
can't afford it

Friday, December 12, 2014

Minimum Wage and the Real Job Creators

Every single time the topic of raising the minimum wage comes up, the Republicans chant the same mantra: “It will cost jobs!”

Never mind that multiple studies over many years have shown that to be a totally bogus myth. As we all know, when it comes to Rethug dogma the “truthiness” of something doesn’t really enter into the equation.

I worked various jobs in the administration and delivery of Unemployment Insurance benefits for 30 years, and in that time I never met anyone who became unemployed because the minimum wage increased. Not one. Ever.

I did find some employers who extravagantly claimed that the small boost in the minimum wage drove them into bankruptcy and forced them to close their businesses. But even a casual examination of those businesses revealed that things like poor management or gross mismanagement, inadequate capitalization and non-competitive pricing were the real culprits.

Another article of faith for the Republicans is that business owners are the “job creators”. But are they really? Did they, for example, take those massive tax cuts and corporate welfare payments and create more jobs with the money like they said they would do?

No, they did not. Because they are not the real job creators.

We live in a nation whose economy is based on consumption. That means that, unless people are seeking to buy what you are selling, you are not going to sell it and so you are not going to produce more of it. Goods, services, widgets -- you name it. The demand has to be there.

And what that really means is that people need the money in their pockets before they can go out and buy what they want. It’s the people that spend the money who are the real job creators. They are the demand, the demand drives production and the businessman answers the upsurge in demand with more production, and people get hired to produce. That businessman is not a job creator. He is a job facilitator, doing his own job to meet the demands of the marketplace. As more people are hired, there is more money to spend in the whole economy, and therefore even more demand, which creates more jobs, and so on.

Give a rich person even more money and he will squirrel it away in some tax-free offshore account. Give a person who is making minimum wage more money and you won’t see her opening that super-secret bank account in the Cayman Islands. No, you will see her spending it on the goods and services that she needs and driving the economy.

This is simple. Economics 101. So why don’t Republicans “get it”? Are they that disconnected from reality? It sure looks like it.

Pay Jury Members Minimum Wage

I started thinking about this several years ago when I was called for jury duty. Since I was a state employee, and jury duty was seen as a positive thing for citizens to do, I was paid my regular wage and benefits from the state while I was gone, in a specific category called, not surprisingly, Jury Duty Pay. It wasn't charged to my vacation leave or holidays or anything else.

So it was no loss to me financially to do my civic duty and be on a jury. But what about people whose employers are not so generous? People who are working at a minimum wage job, without those benefits and perks that are enjoyed by union members, state employees, etc.

For them it is a financial burden for them to be impaneled on a jury. True, most states have a "hardship" clause that can excuse them from jury duty. But is that really contributory to a fair and impartial justice system? From my experience, the answer is a resounding "no".

My jury pool, after all of the excused jurors were dismissed, was top-heavy with middle-class retirees, way older than the local demographic would indicate. Wealthier and whiter as well. And about 60-40 female v. male.

A large number of the people charged with crimes severe enough to warrant a jury trial are exactly the opposite. Young, poor, male, persons of color.

 In Washington State jurors are paid a whopping $10 a day. Nationwide jury duty pay runs from a paltry $5 a day (New Jersey) to a generous payment of the minimum wage for jury hours (New Mexico). Most states pay between $10 and $40 per day. Still not much of an incentive.

If we paid our jurors something more than a joke, we might get a more representative cross-section of jurors to serve. When that happens, I think the accused would get a much fairer trial. People can't park their prejudices at the door when they walk into the courtroom, mostly because a large number of them don't even realize that they have those prejudices. When you have panel of jurors that skews to the aged, the wealthy, the white, it's almost impossible to get a reasonable judgment on "just the facts". You know the old saying, "A fish is the last one that's going to grasp the principles of water".

In my jury pool there were a number of people who were more or less blatant about wanting to shirk their duty. While no one actually came out and said, "Just look at him! He looks guilty!", a couple of them came very close to that. I didn't think I would get chosen myself, since at that time I worked in quasi-law-enforcement (I was an Unemployment Insurance fraud investigator), but I skated through anyway and found myself impaneled on an aggravated assault trial jury.

So what happened? After the first day of testimony and graphic evidence (gruesome photos taken of the victim in the hospital) by the prosecution, the defendant saw the handwriting on the wall and pleaded out the next morning. He took a reduced charge instead of putting his fate in the hands of 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty. He still had to do some prison time, but not nearly as much as he would have when if we found him guilty.

Too bad, since I was looking forward to a Twelve Angry Men scenario in the deliberation room.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sam Cooke Died 50 Years Ago Today

One of my very favorite performers from the late 50s and early 60s was the legendary Sam Cooke. He died 50 years ago today, shot to death by a motel manager in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Morgue Files blog has a moving tribute to his life along with a detailed report on his death. It's worth reading, to get an insight into the troubled life and tragic death of one of America's most influential artists.

In the meantime, here is my own tribute: From 1960, Sam Cooke singing his classic, "Chain Gang", with video from the documentary film American Chain Gang, from Chain Gang Pictures:

I Was Time's Man of the Year. Twice

It's really something to put on my résumé. Twice now I have been Time Magazine's Man Person of the Year.

Every year since 1927 the editors of Time Magazine have chosen a Man of the Year -- since 1999, Person of the Year --  that features and profiles a person, group, idea or object that  "for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year". It's a pretty elite and diverse group. Everyone from Charles Lindbergh (the first MOY) to Adolph Hitler to Wallis Simpson to Henry Kissinger to the Ayatollah Khomeini has been chosen for the somewhat dubious honor. Dubious in that, prior to Faux News, Time Magazine was the propaganda arm of rightwing American-exceptionalist jingoism for most of its life.

In 1966 the Man of the Year was "The Inheritor", which was everyone 25 and under, and I was in that target demographic, having just turned 21 that spring. Of course over half of the US population also fit into the demographic at the time. If you click on The Inheritor from that Person of the Year page, you get redirected to Baby Boomers, but that's not entirely accurate since, as I've taken great pains to point out (pedantically some might say...) over the years that I am not a Baby Boomer, having been born when WWII was still being fought. Officially the Baby Boomer generation started popping out on Jan 1, 1946. (Yes, I am that old...)

Then exactly 40 years later, in 2006, Time's Person of the Year was, simply, "You". In other words, everybody, thanks to the pervasive influence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, the "millions of people who anonymously contribute user-generated content to wikis (including Wikipedia), YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and the multitudes of other websites featuring user contribution" became Person of the Year.

Actually I've technically had it three times -- if you want to count 2011's award, The Protester, honoring everything from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. But since my activities were strictly limited to local fair-weather demonstrations, I don't feel right about putting myself in the same league as the real protesters.

Pretty much all of you fall into the demographic for the 2006 Person of the Year. But if that's not enough for you, you can create your own with a simple Facebook app that puts your photo on a faux cover.

Millionaires For Clinton

A recent poll has Hillary Clinton ahead of Jeb Bush among millionaires by a whopping 72%. Of course that's among Democratic millionaires. Still, she pulled a respectable 31% among all millionaires.

Yeah, that's a surprise -- NOT. She's been a Wall Street sockpuppet/mouthpiece for years, and I really hope the Democrats will come to their senses before 2016 and find someone else to run. But that's like hoping the sun won't come up. At this point, without her even saying she's going to run, she has the nomination locked up.

After eight years of Clinton fatigue, immediately followed by another eight years of Bush fatigue, is this the best that either party can do for our country?

My fear in all of this is that a lot of Democrats view her with scorn, and a lot of people seem to have just a visceral dislike of her. We on the Left also didn't like the way Bill Clinton ran the country during his term in office, the way he had of dividing by triangulation the very people who should have been his chief supporters, the way he "ended welfare as we know it", the way he pandered to the right wing -- of both parties -- and the way he tried to carve out a "New Covenant" position in the middle of the road. To crib from the title of one of the great Jim Hightower's books, the only you thing you find in the middle of the road is dead armadillos.

There's no reason to think Hillary would do much differently than Bill, and gauging by her being in bed with so many Wall Street types, probably worse, and I think a lot of Democrats are going to basically sit the next one out if she's the candidate. I know that I will be hard pressed to find it in me to give her the kind of enthusiastically intense shoes-on-the-sidewalk campaigning that I did for Obama or John Kerry.

And if enough liberals are like me, then we'll end up with a Republican president. None of them are worth, as former Vice President John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner said, "a bucket of warm piss". (Sidebar: This was reported for years euphemistically as a "bucket of warm spit".)

If Jeb runs, he'll probably get the nomination. That would be marginally acceptable, I suppose, despite the fact that he's another Bush. Even though he's supposed to be "the smart one", he's still a fucking Bush! What would not be acceptable would be if he does not run and Ted Cruz gets the nomination and wins the election.

Then it's Katy Bar the Door for all of us liberals. I'll have to start looking for another country to move to if that happens.

In the meantime, Elizabeth Warren, please change your mind! I'm too old to have to pull up stakes and move out of the country.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chicks With Dicks

Gotcha. Sorry, this is not really a post about those Thai "ladyboys", the Kathoey, the transgendered men/women who occupy a certain niche of the Pornonet.

In fact, it's an experiment -- which, it could be said, is actually a blatant and cynical attempt to drive more hits to this blog. Right before the 2008 election, I wrote a post entitled "Sarah Palin Camel Toes", and that particular post got an astounding 47,629 hits. (If you click on that link, you will note that the offending image has been "disappeared" by Google. Probably a "copyright issue". But you can still see it here.)

Almost 48,000 page views. That's nearly four times the number for the second place "Forgotten Men" of Black History 1: Homer Plessy, which topped out at 12,879. Now that is a sad commentary on the quality of political discourse on the Internets.

So anyway... Back to the topic for today.

At this point, thanks to professional dirty old man Sigmund Freud, "everybody" knows -- especially freshman psychology students -- that a gun is an extension of/substitute for a penis. Specifically, a small penis. Especially this guy. But I digress.

Here are some women exercising their 2nd Amendment rights by waving their dicks around:

I wonder how many of them are equally concerned with their other rights. You know, the ones they are actually in danger of losing:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

"We Don't Torture People"

Back in the day, George W. "Baby Doc" Bush and especially his Dark Dick Overlord, Darth Cheney, went around saying, "we don't torture people."

Even then, most of us intuitively knew that at best it was a finely-parsed claim on a par with "that depends on what the definition of 'is' is": If you don't define "waterboarding" as torture, then you can say you didn't "torture" someone with it. You were using "enhanced interrogation techniques".

Fuck that. Everyone instinctively knew that what the CIA was doing was torture. Even the Bush maladministration knew it and all of the adept Orwellian phrasing in the world was not going to change it.

Now we can all really know the facts. The long-awaited Senate Report on Intelligence has been published, and you can read it in all its gory detail at this download link.

It may be too late to impeach the bastards, but I don't think there's a statute of limitations on war crimes.

Off to The Hague with them. Frog march. Frog march.

And maybe it's not too late to repossess that replacement heart beating away merrily in Cheney's chest. It's a good thing that organ donation is generally done anonymously. If one of my loved ones had given up his heart only for me to find it installed inside Darth Cheney's chest of darkness, I would be pissed.

Monday, December 08, 2014

"Uppity Negroes" and Outside Agitators

The great and wise and powerful Oz wingnut pundit Bill Orally has pronounced that all of the nationwide protests over the Ferguson and Garner grand jury decisions were not the spontaneous reaction by a trodden-down community, but instead were orchestrated by a tiny cabal of race-victimization-thumping far-left radicals. After all, Bill Orally is exactly the kind of person god would choose to "understand" and to pass judgment on the actions of "The Negroes" and their leaders.

I am old enough to recall the first Civil Rights protests -- well, not the real first first, but the ones that made it to the Big Time, i.e., national television, in the mid-1950s. No less a personage than J. Edgar Hoover himself said, in his masterfully-ghost-written Masters of Deceit, that the whole civil rights movement was definitely a communist plot. No less an authority on the communist menace, and Genn Beck role-model/object-of-worship, W. Cleon Skousen, said the same thing in his totally factual and completely unbiased study, The Naked Communist.

I can also remember people saying, "Them damn niggers were happy before them goddam communiss agents started stirrin' 'em up 'n' makin' 'em all uppity!"

No, really. I actually heard that. From a member of my own extended family -- remember, I grew up in rural Oklahoma, and sadly not all of my family was of the liberal-progressive Agrarian Socialist line.

That sentiment is still around, although that particular expression of it may have gone underground, more or less -- but like a bloodstain that you can't get out, it's still there in the fabric.

It takes a certain amount -- no, a huge amount -- of racist arrogance to really believe that blacks were happy with their lot under the Jim Crow laws that ruled for a century, until they were provoked by "outside agitators" into believing, against all proof of reality, that their former-masters-and-still-racially-superior overlords, i.e., the white race, were only concerned about their welfare.

And that's why a Google search for the simple phrase "Slavery Good for Blacks" comes up with 9,940,000(!) hits.

So it all comes down to this: According to this line of thought, Black folk are simple, docile, wooly-headed semi-retarded children who would be happy with a shiny set of keys, if it weren't for all those communist/socialist/fascist/Islamist/fuck-if-I-know-ist agitators who just want to stir them up, make them riot and urge them to kill whitey, but don't really want to improve their lot in life. Improve their lot in life? Why would anyone want to do that for those uppity Negroes? After all, as Richard Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture, the appropriately-named Earl Butz, famously once said, "I'll tell you what the coloreds want. It's three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit."

Jesus, when it comes down to it, who doesn't want that? Why would they even think they wanted more?

For a deeper analysis of Bill Orally and his pontifical judgment of this issue, see the always-valuable NewsCorpse site and its Black Folk Sure Is Lucky To Have Bill O’Reilly To Tell ‘Em Who Their Leaders Oughta Be referenced above.